Glossary of Dental Terms

Dental Glossary| Most commonly used dental terms


Acute or chronic localized inflammation, probably with a collection of pus, associated with tissue destruction and, frequently, swelling; usually secondary to infection.

acute periradicular or acute apical abscess–An inflammatory reaction to pulpal infection and necrosis characterized by rapid onset, spontaneous pain, tenderness of the tooth to pressure, pus formation and eventual swelling of associated tissues. May also be known as acute periapical abscess, acute alveolar abscess, dentoalveolar abscess, phoenix abscess, recrudescent abscess, secondary apical abscess

. chronic periradicular or chronic periapical abscess–An inflammatory reaction to pulpal infection and necrosis characterized by gradual onset, little or no discomfort and the intermittent discharge of pus through an associated sinus tract. May also be known as chronic alveolar abscess, chronic apical abscess, chronic dentoalveolar abscess, suppurative apical periodontitis, suppurative periradiucular periodontitis.

A term with different meanings depending on the clinical scenario.
Implant case – Abutment is the fixture that is placed between the implant body (aka implant post) and the restorative prosthesis (e.g., single crown; denture).
Natural tooth case –Abutment is the tooth used as the support for one end of a denture.

Abutment crown:
Artificial crown also serving for the retention or support of a dental prosthesis.

Accession:Accession is the addition of a test specimen, previously collected by a health care provider, to a laboratory specimen collection; recording of essential specimen identification data in a laboratory-maintained file in chronological order of laboratory specimen acquisition; assignment to the specimen of an identification code.

Acid etching:
Acid Etching is defined as the process of cutting a hard surface, such as metal, using a corrosive chemical (etchant) in order to create a design onto the metal.

In dentistry it is the use of an acidic chemical substance to prepare the tooth enamel and or dentin surface to provide retention for bonding. Acid etching is the use of an acidic substance to prepare the tooth's natural enamel for the application of an adhesive. The acid roughens the surface microscopically, increasing retention of resin sealant. Etching of dental enamel with acid removes the smear layer and opens enamel tubules.

The acid itself is usually a 30 to 40 percent phosphoric acid gel colored to make it visible on your tooth. Your dental professional will leave the gel on your tooth's surface for about 15 to 30 seconds, and the erosion it creates gives the smooth enamel surface a frosty appearance.

Adhesion: State in which two surfaces are held together by chemical or physical forces or both with or without the aid of an adhesive. Adhesion is one aspect of bonding.

Adhesive: Any substance that joins or creates close adherence of two or more surfaces. Intermediate material that causes two materials to adhere to each other.

adjunctive: A secondary treatment in addition to the primary therapy.

Allogenic: Belonging to the same species, but genetically different. allogenic (comparative more allogenic, superlative most allogenic) Having an external cause, or source; exogenous. (geology) Formed in another location and transported. (medicine, biology, genetics, immunology) Alternative form of allogeneic: genetically distinct, but of the same species; nonself but intraspecies.

Alloplastic materials. These are biological materials either manufactured completely synthetically, or produced by extensive physical or chemical processing of xenogeneic (not species-related) types of tissue and/or structures.

Alloplastic implants, especially those made with calcium phosphate ceramics, are being increasingly used in reconstructive periodontal surgery.

Several alloplastic materials do have a place in nasal surgery. Provided that the correct techniques are employed, side effects from their use are no greater than .

The material used for alloplastic grafts is a type of glass made from a naturally occurring mineral in bone called hydroxyapatite.

alloy: Compound combining two or more elements having properties not existing in any of the single constituent elements. Sometimes used to refer to amalgam.

alveolar: Referring to the bone to which a tooth is attached.

alveoloplasty: An alveoloplasty is a surgical procedure that reshapes and smooths out the jaw where a tooth or teeth have been extracted or lost.

Conventional alveoloplasty procedure using manual instruments results in higher resorption of the residual alveolar ridge, which is unsuitable for denture

Alveoloplasty is not indicated for the following: When removing bone would harm vital structures. When there is diminished volume or atypical .

amalgam: An alloy used in direct dental restorations. Typically composed of mercury, silver, tin and copper along with other metallic elements added to improve physical and mechanical properties. Approximately half of a dental amalgam filling is liquid mercury and the other half is a powdered alloy of silver, tin, and copper.

"Amalgam fillings are safe. A great deal of research has examined these fillings and found them to be an effective, long-lasting treatment for dental decay. Amalgam, or silver, fillings are made with mercury, silver, tin and copper. In some cases, other metals may be included in amalgam fillings, too.

The FDA recommends amalgams for any dental patient, age 6 and older, especially if the tooth decay is deep and/or in rear teeth. Silver fillings are less prone to wear than white fillings, which is one reason many dentists choose silver fillings for rear teeth that are more active in chewing.

analgesia: Analgesia, loss of sensation of pain that results from an interruption in the nervous system pathway between sense organ and brain. Different forms of sensation (e.g., touch, temperature, and pain) stimulating an area of skin travel to the spinal cord by different nerve fibres in the same nerve bundle.
Analgesic is any drug that relieves pain selectively without blocking the conduction of nerve impulses, markedly altering sensory perception, or affecting .

The different classes of analgesic drugs include: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (e.g. brand names Advil, Nuprin, Motrin).

anatomical crown: That portion of tooth normally covered by, and including, enamel.

ancillary: Subordinate or auxiliary to something or someone else; supplementary.

anesthesia: A procedure that controls the patient's level of anxiety or pain. Delivery of an anesthesia inducing agent by a dentist or other health care practitioner is regulated by state dental boards. ADA anesthesia policy and guidelines are available online ( Please refer to these sources for complete and current information.

analgesia–the diminution or elimination of pain.

anxiolysis–the diminution or elimination of anxiety.

deep sedation– a drug-induced depression of consciousness during which patients cannot be easily aroused but respond purposefully following repeated or painful stimulation. The ability to independently maintain ventilatory function may be impaired. Patients may require assistance in maintaining a patent airway, and spontaneous ventilation may be inadequate. Cardiovascular function is usually maintained.

general anesthesia– a drug-induced loss of consciousness during which patients are not arousable, even by painful stimulation. The ability to independently maintain ventilatory function is often impaired. Patients often require assistance in maintaining a patent airway, and positive pressure ventilation may be required because of depressed spontaneous ventilation or drug-induced depression of neuromuscular function. Cardiovascular function may be impaired.

inhalation– a technique of administration in which a gaseous or volatile agent is introduced into the lungs and whose primary effect is due to absorption through the gas/blood interface.

intravenous– a technique of administration in which the anesthetic agent is introduced directly into the patient’s venous system.

local anesthesia– the elimination of sensation, especially pain, in one part of the body by the topical application or regional injection of a drug.

minimal sedation– a minimally depressed level of consciousness, produced by a pharmacological method, that retains the patient's ability to independently and continuously maintain an airway and respond normally to tactile stimulation and verbal command. Although cognitive function and coordination may be modestly impaired, ventilatory and cardiovascular functions are unaffected.

moderate sedation– a drug-induced depression of consciousness during which patients respond purposefully to verbal commands, either alone or accompanied by light tactile stimulation. No interventions are required to maintain a patent airway, and spontaneous ventilation is adequate. Cardiovascular function is usually maintained.

non-intravenous– a technique of administration in which the anesthetic agent is not introduced directly into the patient’s venous system.

regional block anesthesia– a form of local anesthesia that induces numbness in areas of the mouth and face.

trigeminal division block anesthesia– a form of local anesthesia that is an injection of medication that helps relieve facial pain.

Routes of Administration
enteral– any technique of administration in which the agent is absorbed through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or oral mucosa (i.e., oral, rectal, sublingual).
inhalation– a technique of administration in which a gaseous or volatile agent is introduced into the lungs and whose primary effect is due to absorption through the gas/blood interface.
parenteral– a technique of administration in which the drug bypasses the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (i.e., intramuscular [IM], intravenous [IV], intranasal [IN], submucosal [SM], subcutaneous [SC], intraosseous [IO].)

transdermal– a technique of administration in which the drug is administered by patch or iontophoresis through skin.

transmucosal–. a technique of administration in which the drug is administered across mucosa such as intranasal, sublingual or rectal.

anomaly: deviation from the normal anatomic structure, growth, development or function; an abnormality. ANSI/ADA/ISO Tooth Numbering System: See Specification No. 3950.

anterior: Mandibular and maxillary centrals, laterals and cuspids. The codes for anterior teeth in the Universal/National Tooth Numbering System are 6 through 11 (maxillary), and 22 through 27 (mandibular) for permanent dentition; C through H (maxillary), and M through R (mandibular) for primary dentition. This is also a term that, in general, refers to the teeth and tissues located towards the front of the mouth.

anxiolysis: A level of sedation in which a person is very relaxed and may be awake. The person is able to answer questions and follow instructions. Anxiolysis is caused by special drugs and is used to help relieve anxiety during certain medical or surgical procedures.

An anxiolytic is a medication, or other intervention, that reduces anxiety. This effect is in contrast to anxiogenic agents, which increase anxiety. Together these categories of psychoactive compounds or interventions may be referred to as anxiotropic compounds or agents.

apex: The tip or end of the root end of the tooth.

apexification: The process of induced root development to encourage the formation of a calcified barrier in a tooth with immature root formation or an open apex. May involve the placement of an artificial apical barrier prior to nonsurgical endodontic obturation.

apexogenesis: Vital pulp therapy performed to encourage continued physiological formation and development of the tooth root. Apexogenesis is a procedure that addresses the shortcomings involved with capping the inflamed dental pulp of an incompletely developed tooth. The goal of apexogenesis is the preservation of vital pulp tissue so that continued root development with apical closure may occur.

Apexification is a method of inducing a calcified barrier at the apex of a nonvital tooth with incomplete root formation. Apexogenesis refers to a vital pulp therapy procedure performed to encourage physiological development and formation of the root end.

apicoectomy: Amputation of the apex of a tooth.

arch, dental: The curved composite structure of the natural dentition and the residual ridge, or the remains thereof, after the loss of some or all of the natural teeth.

areas of oral cavity: A two digit numeric system used to report regions of the oral cavity on patient records and on claims submitted to third-party payers.
00 entire oral cavity
01 maxillary arch
02 mandibular arch
10 upper right quadrant
20 upper left quadrant
30 lower left quadrant
40 lower right quadrant

arthrogram: A diagnostic X-ray technique used to view bone structures following injection of a contrast medium into a joint.

artificial crown: Restoration covering or replacing the major part, or the whole of the clinical crown of a tooth, or implant.

attachment: A mechanical device for the fixation, retention, and stabilization of a prosthesis (Glossary of Prosthodontic Terms, 9th Edition; ©2019 Academy of Prosthodontics). See precision attachment.

avulsion: Separation of tooth from its socket due to trauma. See evulsion.

Den Tim

Practicing Dentistry for 20 years